Noah and I had the most interesting dinner conversation the other night, about why we choose the foods we do. We were eating at our neighborhood standby where the menu is huge, and the choices are many. Wood fired pizza, steaks, ribs, fish, pasta, salads, burgers, fish tacos– they have it all. You can choose between the regular huge Montana-size portion, or the smaller version which is still plenty of food. And then you get to choose a side which ranges from steamed broccoli to onion rings, and everything in between.
Sometimes we choose what will make us feel full: 12 oz prime rib with baked potato, steamed veggies, and soup and bread to start. Full portion, consumed to the point of discomfort, excess discarded.
Sometimes we choose what will keep us lean: Spinach salad, glazed salmon, steamed rice and vegetable. Smaller portion, consumed completely to a comfortable degree of satisfaction, but maybe we feel a little deprived.
Sometimes we choose what is familiar: cheeseburger and fries. Eaten to the point of fullness, with a residual heavy feeling that will carry throughout the day.
Sometimes we choose what will comfort us: Roasted Chicken with a side of mac and cheese. Big portion, eat as much as we can until we are drowsy and intoxicated with fullness.
Sometimes we choose what we feel is truly best for our bodies, like going to a favorite salad bar where the rainbow array of raw vegetables and accoutrements are organic, freshly prepared, and contain no chemicals or preservatives. Consumed to the point of satisfaction, with a residual feeling of wellness and vitality.
Can you relate to those desires? In a given month, I make choices that fall under all of those categories. I may lean most often towards the last one, but sometimes I want that comfort or fullness or familiarity. An Arby’s commercial has been running lately, with their new slogan: “It’s Good Mood Food (TM)”.
Hmmm….such an interesting approach, to advertise food that holds the promise of a feeling. A good mood is really just an emotion, right? We’ve all heard the phrase “emotional eating”, but aren’t we all emotional beings? Don’t we all struggle and strive to make good choices, sometimes in spite of our emotions? Maybe Arby’s is onto something. They’re tapping in to our emotional decision making center. I mean, I want to be in a good mood, don’t you?
Over the course of my life, as someone who loves to eat and strives to be healthy, I have come to believe that we are all emotional eaters, and that our health hinges on how well we have embraced this idea, and brought self-awareness to our dining choices. The peace I feel today, towards what I eat has evolved over my lifetime from a place of self-loathing and denial, to self-love and compassion. Some days the indulgence of a cheeseburger really is self love, but I can’t say the same is true if I start eating cheeseburgers (and the like) everyday. That would be self-destructive. To move from self-loathing (I am not good enough, thin enough, worthy enough, etc.) to self-love (I deserve what is truly good for me) has a dramatic effect on the way we choose to feed ourselves, these bodies that carry us through the world, these vehicles for our souls.
This raises a question: If true wellness comes only from self-love and good self-care, could it be possible that the multi-billion dollar diet industry, based on concepts like self-denial, self-control, and even self-aggression has it all wrong?
Pregnancy has been the ultimate teacher in regards to self-love. Inside this body lives another, whom I love so much already, that I am super aware of what I put into my temple. It is one of life’s most awe-inspiring physical feats, and watching it happen to oneself… well, it’s impossible not to want to be really good to my bod and the baby’s. Yet, even on a regular “solo” day, full with moving, working, bending, hugging, thinking, driving, walking, cooking, breathing, typing, seeing, smelling, and pumping blood, our bodies sure do a lot. We all deserve what is truly good for us. Learning to give that to ourselves, deciphering the impulses and where they come from, takes a lot of introspection.
It would be impossible here not to mention my friend Lia at Nourish Network, who is at the forefront of this shift in consciousness, and who makes it her livelihood to help people with that profound internal shift. If you want in on this conversation, there’s no better place to start.
The other thing I have to mention is what we ate for dinner last night. Going through and old recipe notebook I found a scrap of paper with the heading: “A Salad Worth Making Again.” A good salad is hard to come by. Too many chefs’ treat salad like a second-class citizen, throwing whatever together without half the passion they spend on their bigger menu items. Wilted greens, unbalanced dressings, thoughtless flavor combinations– it really gets my goat. At any rate, I love a good dinner salad, and that’s what this is. Balanced in flavor and texture, healthy and protein-rich with a hint of indulgence, and in every way, completely satisfying.
I remember making this for myself in Juneau, when Noah was away flying heli-ski contracts in Cordova. For three months I lived alone in the pilot house at the airport. I can still hear the sound of the winter winds against the metal siding of the apartment. The lights of the air traffic control tower blinked through one kitchen window, and the Mendenhall Towers glowed beneath the Northern Lights through the other. It was hard to want to cook with no one there to feed, but I tried to think of our time apart as Ginny time, and take good care of myself. I spent a lot of days cross country skiing, got a gym membership, and chose to feed myself really well. It was nice. I did make this salad again, last night, and it turns out I was right after all– It was definitely worth it.
Recipe: Grilled Chicken Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
I found this recipe written by my own hand on a scrap of paper with the heading, “A Salad Worth Making Again.” The combination of smoky, sweet, tart, and earthy flavors creates a well-composed salad that will push all your buttons. Try it, and I think you’ll agree, this is definitely worth making again.
- 1 large or 2 small boneless skinless chicken breasts
- heaping 1/4 teaspoon of your favorite seasoned salt
- few grinds black pepper
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 strips bacon (not thick-cut), cooked until crisp and crumbled
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 4 to 5 ounces mixed baby greens
- 1/4 cup dried mango or apricots, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup sweetened dried cranberries
- 1/2 large avocado, diced
- 2 tablespoons herbed goat cheese (chevre-style), crumbled
- Honey Mustard Dressing (recipe below)
1. In a small mixing bowl combine salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil, and whisk to combine. Add chicken breast(s), and toss to combine. Let sit while you prepare remaining ingredients.
2. Heat grill to a medium-high flame. Add chicken and grill 4 to 5 minutes per side, or until thickest part of breast feels firm to the touch. You can also check for doneness with an instant-read thermometer (160 degrees for poultry). Let chicken rest 5 minutes before shredding the breast meat into strips with your clean hands (you may need to cut some of the longer strips into bite-sized pieces).
3. Assemble the salad by arranging greens on large dinner plates, and adding all toppings. Drizzle with Honey Mustard Dressing immediately before serving.
Honey Mustard Dressing
This will make 3/4 cup– about double what you need– but will keep for up to 1 week. Use it to drizzle grilled salmon, grilled asparagus, or stir-fried greens.
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (may substitute white wine vinegar)
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice (about 1/2 orange)
- 1/4 cup walnut, grapeseed, or canola oil
- 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot
- 1 heaping half teaspoon kosher salt
- few grinds black pepper
Combine all ingredients in a mason jar with a tight fitting lid, and shake vigorously to combine.